Category Archives: reviews

Wiggers The Well-Dressed Wombat by Jenna Greene (Illustrated by Emily Zieroth) Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Acclaimed author Jenna Greene and artist Emily Zieroth take you children and parents on a journey with new literary character and fashion icon Wiggers as he gives out dressing suggestions in the children’s book, “Wiggers the Well-Dressed Wombat”. 

The Synopsis

Wiggers the Wombat loves to share what he knows, how to clothe all his friends wherever he goes.

Take a fun little journey with Wiggers to see, all the dressing suggestions he gives out for free.

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The Review

The author does an incredible job of crafting a cute and thoughtful narrative for parents and children alike. The tone and beautiful illustrations did a fantastic job of presenting lovable characters and simple yet profound messages throughout the narrative. 

What stood out immediately in this short yet entertaining read was the powerful messages that the author wove through the narrative. Messages and themes of self-acceptance, living your best life, and treating others with kindness and courtesy lead to a fulfilling and memorable life. 

The Verdict

A heartfelt, captivating, and family-friendly children’s book, author Jenna Greene and illustrator Emily Zieroth’s “Wiggers The Well-Dressed Wombat” is a must-read book for parents and children everywhere. The warmth and vibrant imagery along with a memorable and thoughtful story from an incredible writer will leave parents and their children feeling a great sense of bonding after finishing this book. Be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Jenna Greene is an elementary school teacher. When she isn’t teaching or writing, she is co-hosting “Quill and Ink: A Podcast for Book Lovers” with Miranda Oh. Jenna lives with her husband, daughter, and their cat, Thomas.

https://www.jennagreene.ca/

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About the Illustrator 

Hi! I’m Emily!

For well over 6 years, I have been a freelancing illustrator and graphic designer. Each and every day I am improving my style and technique in hopes to better myself and satisfy every client who hires me. I would say that my style is mostly cartoon, and deeply inspired by Disney animation. But, I am not just limited to cartoony things. I have also been experimenting in semi-realism, professional ads for businesses, and more! I have done well over 80 books in my career, and I have been recently working on t-shirt designs based off things I love. You can also check that out at MrsSocks on Redbubble. I will be sure to add a button link to the T-shirt tab that so you can check out it out for yourself!

What about myself though? Well, I am Canadian and currently married to a military man, which means my line of work is perfect for our lifestyle. I love Disney (as if I couldn’t mention it enough and show it off), and have been going there every year for over 2 decades! I also love baking, and dogs. Although I can be a tad shy in person, when I work, I am friendly, outgoing, and make every job enjoyable and easy going. Hmm, I think that is all I can think of for this, so, check out my works, and contact me if you are interested in working alongside me

https://emzieroth.wixsite.com/emilysworks

Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes by Collected Authors Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

Eight authors come together to bring readers the first all-star collection of holiday romance novels for the 2021 holiday season from high-profile romance authors in the romance collection, “Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes”. 

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The Synopsis

Hugs, Kisses and Mistletoe Wishes…a Sweet Christmas Romance Collection. Celebrate the magical holiday season with this special gift straight from our hearts, eight enchanting love stories to cherish all year long. Rekindle your love of the holidays with these heartwarming romances.

Roxy Boroughs: THE SPRITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

A wisecracking Christmas sprite takes a heartbroken woman on a magical journey to discover the true meaning of love and family, but only if she has the courage to act before it’s too late.

S. L. Dickson: MY CHRISTMAS HERO

When a firefighter finds and returns a Christmas sock monkey to its rightful owner, he finds a woman with a zest for life. While the romance sparks, a tragedy occurs. Will they get a second chance? Will a kiss under the Mistletoe fulfill their dreams?

Raine Hughes: LOVE IN TIME FOR CHRISTMAS

Ready to move into their newly purchased home, Jamison Baker and his two young girls discover the previous owner and her female boarders haven’t vacated. Until new accommodations can be found for the women their only option is to share the renamed house, Baker’s Harem…er, Haven. Jamison can’t imagine how he’ll live with thirteen females, especially the feisty Kat Madison.

Ellen Jorgy: SAFE IN HIS ARMS AT CHRISTMAS

Mix one scared city girl with one guilt-ridden country boy doctor and you get a recipe for love at Christmas, but hidden agendas emerge that could crush not only their hopes of love but might end Nicole’s life as well.

Shelley Kassian: A GENTLEMAN FOR CHRISTMAS

In this Downton Abbey meets Outlander romance, a veterinary surgeon pursues a high society lady at the height of the Christmas season. Differing cultures and a high-class father complicate the romance. Will a carol’s song and a horse’s Lady Luck make the season brighter?

Katie O’Connor: GINGERBREAD DREAMS

Poppy Holiday needs a buy a new oven for her bakery. Darius Badeaux has a reputation to shed. They only way they can both achieve their dreams is by winning the Annual Gingerbread Baking Competition. Together. Too bad there’s a hurtful past hanging between them. Will the season of giving bring them together to build the perfect gingerbread house and salvage their careers, or will the past crush their dreams and their hearts?

Sherile Reilly: A WISH UPON A CHRISTMAS KNIGHT

Orphaned, Melody Blackwell, lives under the control of her selfish uncle who betroths her, for financial gain, to a cruel old man. Cursed for centuries, Samuel Knight is brought to life by the fair Melody. Together, they must fight an ancient curse that threatens to destroy their love and then kill them. Can they survive?

A. M. Westerling: EVEYLN’S BEAU

After a disappointing Season, Lady Evelyn Kendall retreats to Kendall Hall in Cornwall. Her immediate future does not include a husband, although a renewed acquaintance with long-time family friend Oliver Harrington shows promise. When a local vicar offers her an opportunity to organize a Christmas pageant for disadvantaged children, Evelyn accepts, never thinking it would lead to disaster for both her and Oliver. 

The Review

These breathtaking romances

such a delight to read. I know we’re in the spooky season right now, but I’ve always felt it’s never too early to start dipping our toes into the holiday season, and fiction is the perfect way to do so without skipping over the Halloween season. These authors did a great job of crafting whole and unique worlds within this collection that felt original and yet meshed well together with all at once. 

What stood out to me as a writer was how natural the author’s various sub-genres within the sweet romance genre overall. Everything from fantasy and historical fiction romances to more dramatic turns, all within the holiday setting, and each author brought their own unique voice and writing style into their narratives expertly. The emotion and charming wit that each protagonist and romance inspired were fantastic to watch unfold, as was the incredible writing of the character interactions within each story.

What always has stood out to me as an author and reader during the holidays is the sense of hope and understanding each tale brings. It’s a time of warmth, where magic isn’t just a silly child’s fantasy but instead a promise of better things for us all. Each story captured that wonderfully, bringing out the romance and passion of each relationship explored while fitting within their own respective genres neatly. Whether the story was filled with great sadness, a beautiful beginning, or even a needed ending, each story found hope and life in the narratives presented here. 

The Verdict

A memorable, magical, and entertaining collection of holiday romance novels, the collected works found within “Hugs, Kisses, and Mistletoe Wishes” is a must-read for the 2021 holiday season! Inviting and engaging on both a creative and emotional level, each author crafted a narrative that kept the reader hooked from the first moments of each story, and warmed our hearts as these characters grew and evolved throughout their romantic journeys. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Authors

Katie O’Connor lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. She married her high school sweetheart and is living her happily ever after. She is the mother of two grown daughters and is extremely proud of her five grandchildren.

Katie’s career path has been long and twisted, with most of her life devoted to her family. She’s been a waitress, chambermaid, cashier, store manager, as well as a lab and x-ray technician. She is an avid quilter and crafter. She finds inspiration and relaxation in the wilds of Alberta.

She’s dabbled in writing since high school because something drives her to create stories. She swears it’s impossible for her NOT to write. Unsatisfied with one genre, Katie writes contemporary romance, fantasy/paranormal romance and erotica. Recently, she’s crafted her first cozy mystery with the intention of publishing a cozy mystery series.

She believes in all things magical; including dragons, fairies, UFOs, ghosts, and house pixies. But most of all she believes in love, romance and hope.

https://www.katieohwrites.com/

SHELLEY KASSIAN has been writing timeless love stories filled with romance or dark fantasy (romantasy) for more than twenty years, novels that include her recent beach read, A Sea for Summer. A history enthusiast, she’s traveled far and wide to explore secret gardens and medieval castles, having an avid interest in the Tudor period. Her prose has been described as “near rhapsodic,” “pitch perfect,” and “stylishly straightforward, rarely relying on complex turns of phrase.” Reviewers have said her narrative conveys “imaginative fantasy,” “fascinating characters,” and “refreshing romance.”

Shelley’s taken creative writing courses, holds board positions within professional associations, and retains a Professional Editing Certificate. Drawing on her expertise, she has mentored novice writers, but her passion comes alive while scribing her stories into novel-length fiction. Shelley shares her life with her husband, adores her adult children and three grand pups, and when not relaxing at her seaside cottage, lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

S.L. Dickson writes romantic stories about strong men and women who make a difference. She sets her stories in small towns and rural locations, although some of her characters are city dwellers. She is passionate about storytelling and appreciates the support of her husband, Bill, family members, beloved friends, and her many writing colleagues.

Shaa’s favorite place to write or retreat is at her cabin. She enjoys canoeing, swimming, hiking in the forest, or sitting on the dock listening to the call of the loons; even watching bald eagles soar in a blue sky. A favorite family time is when her children and grandchildren come to visit. Family gather around the camp fire, roasting marshmallows and sharing their life stories, whether the season be summer or winter.

Just for fun, Shaa wrote a short story called – Mind Traffic. by S.L. Shaa Dickson. It’s a fun story about life from younger years to the Golden years. Hope you enjoy it.

In Shaa’s spare time, she shares a fun hobby with her family. She often sets up acrylic paints and paints on smooth river rocks, old plates and flat paint stir sticks. Art is life and life is art, and whether the tools be words or a brush stroke, they make our world a more beautiful place.

Shaa and her husband reside in northwestern Ontario with their sheltie mix dog, Lacey.

Before launching her writing career, the multi-talented Roxy Boroughs was an accomplished stage and film actor who appeared in the TV series DEGRASSI JUNIOR HIGH; and top-rated movies such as IT MUST BE LOVE, starring Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen.

Look for her romantic comedy CRAZY FOR COWBOY; her suspense series PSYCHIC HEAT, featuring the award-winning novel A STRANGER’S TOUCH; and the popular FROST FAMILY CHRISTMAS series, marrying sweet romance with cozy mystery.

November 2021 marks the release of two original heartwarming holiday stories. Watch for THE SPRITE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, published in the sweet romance anthology HUGS, KISSES AND MISTLETOE WISHES; and A CHRISTMAS CAROLE, featured in CHRISTMAS ROMANCE DIGEST 2021: HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS, edited by Tracy Cooper-Posey.

Roxy is married to her first love, so she not only writes romance, she lives it! If she’s not typing away at her desk, she’s reading, quilting, whipping up a fabulous new recipe, or hiking around the Rocky Mountain village she calls home, where mule deer and bighorn sheep roam the streets.

“From vikings to viscounts, join the adventure, live the romance.”

Living by the motto “You don’t know unless you try”, A.M.Westerling started writing historical romance because she couldn’t find the kinds of fun stories she enjoyed. After all, she thought, who doesn’t enjoy a tasty helping of dashing heroes and spunky heroines, seasoned with a liberal sprinkle of passion and adventure?

Westerling, a former engineer, is a member of the Romance Writers of America and active in her local chapter. As well as writing, she enjoys cooking, gardening, camping, yoga, and watching pro sports. She lives in Calgary, Canada.

http://www.amwesterling.com/index.html

Raine Hughes was born in central Canada, growing up on a dairy farm in a prairie province. She milked cows in the lands down under (Australia and New Zealand) as well as in Canada before settling down with her husband and assorted livestock and exotic birds. With a favorite TV show being the I Dream of Jeannie series, naturally Hughes thought of writing something similar and started her own Down to Earth Magical Romances in sub-genres including paranormal, fantasy and contemporary. She likes to write on the ‘sweeter’ side rather than ‘dark’ because the world needs more ways to lighten the mood. As a member of a Canadian chapter of the Romance Writers of America, as well as having membership in other writing groups, she enjoys reading most any romance along with books in a variety of the other genres.

Creatures Most Vile by Chelsea Lauren Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A young woman who has been hunted by creatures her whole life has her world turned upside down when she discovers she has rare supernatural abilities, and is forced to fight the beasts that have haunted her in an arena. She must find a means of escape before the arena’s ruthless Commander before its too late in author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile”. 

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The Synopsis

Stalked by monsters in the woods and her past, Anora finds safety in the quiet comforts of her small town life.

It’s another ordinary day when she’s sent to a Guardian assessment designed to unleash rare supernatural abilities, until she blasts a tunnel of water across the room. Her coach calls her gift a blessing, but Anora knows it’s a death sentence. Now she must train as a Guardian and battle the very monsters that have tormented her entire life.

After being thrown into the arena with a clawed and cackling creature, Anora refuses to accept this new life. She appeals to the Commander and begs her trainers to let her go home. The more they refuse, the more Anora realizes this isn’t a training camp—it’s a prison and they will never let her leave. Now she must escape the camp before the Commander catches on, for if he does, he may turn out to be worse than the monsters lurking in the woods. 

The Review

The world-building in this novel was fantastic! The author did an incredible job of not only captivating readers with a strong protagonist who evolved greatly over the course of the narrative but crafted a merciless and haunting dystopian world full of monsters, both the ravenous and humankind. The mythos that the author crafted around these fictional nations and the creatures that inhabit them, as well as the Guardians and their purpose, was incredible to watch unfold and did a great job of putting a new spin on the dystopian SCI-FI genre. 

The character arcs were what really brought me into this narrative fully. Anora was a fantastic hero to watch grow, as her arc from a scared and family-driven young girl into a strong and rebellious young woman was such a great and well-rounded story arc. The antagonists of this book were so vile and twisted, and the author did a great job of shocking readers with twists and turns that would change character perspectives constantly.

The Verdict

A heart-pounding, jaw-dropping, and entertaining read, author Chelsea Lauren’s “Creatures Most Vile” is a must-read dystopian sci-fi of 2021! The perfect read for sci-fi fans during the spooky season, the chilling monster attacks to set up the novel’s setting, and the twisted mind-games that the protagonist must endure making this a tense-filled world that cries out for a sequel. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

I never knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. At school, everyone seemed so convicted in their career aspirations while I was constantly changing my mind. My two favorite subjects were science and English, so I decided to follow a biology track in college.  

During those four years my love for biology solidified. A career in research started to take shape. I was accepted to a graduate program winter of my senior year and was ready for a new adventure. Little did I know, that adventure was waiting for me in a Creative Writing 101 course that upcoming spring.  

After a semester of exploring my creative side through poetry and short stories, I was hooked. After graduation, I continued writing for fun and in graduate school it was an outlet for stress. My best friend and I would have de-stress writing sessions. We wrote a little, talked a lot, and she is the one who encouraged me to seek publication and share my stories with the world.   

Throughout the years, my fiancé has been a constant source of encouragement.  Balancing a career in microbiology, a blossoming career as an author, and everything else would not be possible without his hugs and our baby puppy Otis’s cuddles and kisses.  

Here’s a link to a Q&A I did with author Joshua Gillingham. 

https://www.chelsea-lauren.com/

The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A half Reaper, Half-Shinigami warrior must find her place in the underworld and life as a whole while trying to earn the trust of the Goddess of Death in 1890’s Japan in author Kylie Lee Baker’s “The Keeper of Night”, the first in the series of the same name.

The Synopsis

Julie Kagawa meets Scythe in this captivating and evocative journey into Death’s domain as one soul collector seeks her place in the underworld of 1890s Japan. Book 1 of a planned duology.

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough yearns for the acceptance she has never found among the Reapers who raised her. When the Shinigami powers she can no longer hide force her to flee for her life, Ren and her younger brother—the only being on earth to care for her—travel to Japan and the dark underworld of Yomi, where Ren hopes to claim her place among the Shinigami and finally belong.

But the Goddess of Death is no more welcoming than the Reapers who raised her, and Ren finds herself set on an impossible task—find and kill three yokai demons, and maybe, just maybe, she can earn a place in Death’s service. With only her brother and an untrustworthy new ally by her side, Ren will learn how far she’ll go to win the acceptance she craves, and whether the cost of belonging is worth any sacrifice.

The Review

Wow, that was truly a captivating and visceral reading experience. The author has expertly crafted an original YA Fantasy/Historical Fiction horror tale that will not only entertain audiences but introduce many readers to the rich mythos that exists within Japanese folklore and the culture as a whole. The balance of Asian and European mythology that the author explores is great, but what really is amazing to see is how the European lore is very much a secondary component to the narrative, serving more as a stepping board for the character’s beginning arc rather than taking up the majority of the novel’s mythos. 

The characters were so unique and rich to watch unfold. The protagonist herself was interesting, as she really toed the line between morality and her dark origins the further and further she went on her journey. Seeing how her brother and this new ally of Ren’s served as devil and angel on her shoulders throughout this journey, highlighting the hardship of having others tell you who you are while you are in the middle of trying to decide that for yourself. 

The Verdict

A mesmerizing, haunting, and emotionally driven YA Fantasy and action novel, author Kylie Lee Baker’s “The Keeper of Night” is a must-read novel for YA Fantasy and horror fans this fall! Incorporating truly chilling mythology and brilliant character growth, the shocking final chapter and cliffhanger of an ending will have readers on the edge of their seats, eager for the next entry into this amazing duology. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

About the Author

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston and has since lived in Atlanta, Salamanca, and Seoul. Her writing is informed by her heritage (Japanese, Chinese, and Irish), as well as her experiences living abroad as both a student and teacher. She has a B.A. in Creative Writing and Spanish from Emory University and is currently pursuing a Master of Library and Information Science degree at Simmons University. In her free time, she watches horror movies, plays the cello, and bakes too many cookies. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

SOCIAL LINKS:

Author website: https://www.kylieleebaker.com/

Twitter: @KylieYamashiro

Instagram: @kylieleebaker

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/56030267-the-keeper-of-night

BUY LINKS:

Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/the-keeper-of-night/9781335405661 

Porter Square Books: https://www.portersquarebooks.com/signed/signed-keeper-night-hardcover

Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781335405661

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-keeper-of-night-kylie-lee-baker/1138317760?ean=9781335405661 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Keeper-Night-duology/dp/1335405666/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=the+keeper+of+night&qid=1613326691&sr=8-2

Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Kylie_Lee_Baker_The_Keeper_of_Night?id=6asJEAAAQBAJ

Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/ph/en/ebook/the-keeper-of-night

Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/dk/book/the-keeper-of-night/id1540957269

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Q&A with Kylie Lee Baker

Q: What was the hardest scene to write in The Keeper of Night? What was the easiest?

A: The opening scene was probably the hardest to write because I had to introduce a complex magic system. The Reapers control time, and that kind of power makes the story vulnerable to a lot of plot holes if you don’t word it carefully. It’s such a powerful tool that it raises the question of why there’s ever any conflict at all, or why any battle is ever hard for Reapers. I needed to address that very early on so the whole world wouldn’t fall apart, while still making the story move forward. 

The easiest scene to write was an argument between Ren and Neven, when Neven tries to dictate Ren’s identity, and Ren responds: “Why am I the only one with no say in who I am?” That was one of the first scenes I wrote, and it contains a lot of my raw feelings about how biracial people are treated. Very little of the dialogue changed from the first draft of that scene. The challenge, then, was to build up the rest of the book to bring the reader to the point where that question, and that very emotionally charged scene, made sense. 

Q: Did you hide any secrets in your book? (names of friends, little jokes, references to things only some people will get)?

A: I wouldn’t really call these hidden secrets, but a lot of details about the British Reapers are a huge nod to the Black Butler anime, which fans of that show might notice. For instance, the Reapers in The Keeper of Night are known for their poor vision, much like the Reapers in Black Butler who all have to wear glasses, which are important details in both stories. Neven’s love of cats came from Sebastian Michaelis, the titular character from Black Butler who is inexplicably obsessed with cats. Another reference (unrelated to Black Butler) is to Alfred Lord Tennyson–Ren often refers vaguely to themes in his poetry, but she’s talking specifically about a poem called “Love and Death” in which love defeats death, which is something she probably should have internalized a bit sooner. 

Q: What do you hope people remember about The Keeper of Night?

A: I hope people remember how complex, traumatic, and powerful Ren’s existence as a biracial character is. I hope that this gives people more respect for the uniqueness of biracial identity, and that biracial readers feel solidarity in their struggles. 

Q: Did The Keeper of Night have a certain soundtrack you listened to while writing?

A: I listened to an acoustic cover of Sia’s “Elastic Heart” and Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me in a Crown” a lot when writing, because those songs reminded me both of Ren’s vulnerability and thirst for power. I also distinctly remember sitting in a coffee shop in Seoul listening to RM’s “Tokyo” while writing some of the first scenes in Japan. It has a very cold, lonely, wistful atmosphere that I tried to emulate. 

Q: What is your dream cast for The Keeper of Night?

A: This question is hard to answer, partially because I don’t often imagine real people when writing, and partially because the pool of mixed race white/Asian actors who you can discover through a quick Google search is much smaller than for actors of other races, not even taking into account things like age or face shape. The closest I can come for Ren is Pom Klementieff (who plays Mantis) with black hair. I know she’s Korean, not Japanese, but she also grew up estranged from that culture, much like Ren. Timothee Chalamet with blonde hair is probably the closest match for Neven, since I’ve heard a lot of people say he looks like he should have been a wealthy Victorian child, and Terada Takuya for Hiro–he’s very silly at times, and very sharp at other times, much like Hiro. 

Enjoy this Exclusive Excerpt from “The Keeper of Night”

chapter two

At the far edge of London, somewhere between nightmares and formless dreams, the Reapers slept by daylight.

The only way to enter our home was through the catacombs of the Highgate Cemetery, through a door that no longer existed. It had been built there long ago, when the Britons first came to our land and Ankou carved a hole in their world so that Death could enter. But humans had sealed it shut with layers of wood, then stone, then brick and mortar, all in the hopes of keeping Death out.

By the nineteenth century, humans had mostly forgotten about the Door and what it meant. Then, when the London churchyards began to overflow with bones, the humans had searched for a place just outside of London to bury their dead. By chance or fate, they’d built their new cemetery right on top of the Door. It turned out that Death drew all of us close, even if we weren’t aware of it.

No streetlights lit the path through Highgate at night, but I didn’t need them to find my way home. Before I’d even passed through the main gate, Death pulled me closer. All Reapers were drawn to him, our bones magnetized to the place of our forefather. As soon as I entered the cemetery, a humming began just under my skin, like a train’s engine beginning to whir. My blood flushed faster through my veins as I brushed aside the branches of winter-barren lime trees and low-hanging elms. My boots crunched shattering steps into the frosted pathways as I ran.

I stumbled through jagged rows of ice-cracked tombstones on uneven ground and through a village of mausoleums, finally reaching the gothic arched doorway of the catacomb entrance. The pull had grown unbearable, dragging me along in a dizzy trance as I descended the stairs into the cool quietness of damp bricks and darkness. The labyrinth would have been unnavigable if not for the fervent pull.

At last, my hands came out to touch the wall where the Door used to be, but now there were only damp bricks and an inscription on the arch overhead that read When Ankou comes, he will not go away empty in rigid script. I dug one hand into my pocket and clutched my clock, pressed my other hand to the bricks, then closed my eyes and turned time all the way back to the beginning.

Time flowed through the silver-and-gold gears, up into my bloodstream and through my fingertips, dispersing into the brick wall. Centuries crumbled away, the mortar growing wet and bricks falling loose. One by one, they leaped out of their positions in the wall and aligned themselves in dry stacks on the ground, waiting once again for construction. Objects were easy to manipulate with time, for I could draw from their own intrinsic energy rather than siphoning off my own. Rather than paying in years of my own life, I could borrow years before the bricks crumbled and quickly repay the debt when I put them back.

I stepped through the doorway and the pull released me all at once. I breathed in a deep gasp of the wet night air, then turned around and sealed the door behind me. The bricks jumped back to their positions in the wall, caked together by layers of mortar that dried instantly, the time debt repaid.

The catacombs beyond the threshold spanned infinitely forward, appropriated as resting places for Reapers rather than corpses. Mounted lanterns cast a faint light onto the dirt floors and gray bricks. It was almost Last Toll, so only the last Reapers returning from the night shift still milled around, their silver capes catching the dim light of the tunnels, but most had retreated to their private quarters for the morning.

I turned right and hurried down the block. The low ceilings gave way to high-arched doorways and finally opened up to a hall of echoing marble floors and rows of dark wood desks. Luckily, there was no line for Collections this close to Last Toll.

I hurried to the first Collector and all but slammed my vials into the tray, jolting him awake in his seat. He was a younger Reaper and seemed perplexed at having been awoken so unceremoniously. When his gaze landed on me, he frowned and sat up straight.

“Ren Scarborough,” I said, pushing the tray closer to him.

“I know who you are,” he said, picking up my first vial and uncapping it with deliberate slowness. Of course, everyone knew who I was.

He took a wholly unnecessary sniff of the vial before holding it up to the light to examine the color, checking its authenticity. The Collectors recorded every night’s soul intake before sending the vials off to Processing, where they finally released the souls into Beyond. He picked up a pen from his glass jar of roughly thirty identical pens, tapped it against the desk a few times, then withdrew a leather-bound ledger from a drawer. He dropped it in front of him, opened the creaky cover, and began flipping through the pages, one by one, until he reached a fresh one.

I resisted the urge to slam my face against the desk in impatience.

I really didn’t have time to waste, but Collections was a necessary step. I didn’t consider myself benevolent in times of crisis, but even I was above leaving souls to expire in glass tubes instead of releasing them to their final resting place, wherever that was. And besides, a blank space next to my name in the Collections ledger meant a Collector would pay a visit to my private quarters to reprimand me. The last thing I needed was someone realizing that I’d left before Ivy could even report me.

But when the Collector uncorked my fourth vial and held it up to the lamp, swirling it in the light for ten excruciating seconds, I began to wonder if I’d made the right decision.

The bells of Last Toll reverberated through the bricks all around us, humming through the marble floors. In this hazy hour between night and day, the church grims came out in search of Reaper bones to gnaw on. Night collections had to be turned in by then, while day collections had to be processed by the First Toll at dusk.

The Collector sighed as he picked up my fifth vial. “I’m afraid I’ll have to mark your collections as late.”

My jaw clenched. “Why.”

“It’s past Last Toll, of course,” he said.

My fingers twitched. The lamp on the Collector’s desk flickered with my impatience, but I took a steadying breath.

“I was here before Last Toll,” I said, trying to keep my voice even.

“According to my ledger, your collections still have not been processed,” he said, spinning my fifth vial in his left hand.

I sighed and closed my eyes. Of course, I knew what he was doing. Chastising a “latecomer” would earn praise from higher management. It was the easiest way for him to climb the ranks—to exert his power over the half-breed. He would be praised for his steadfastness and gain a reputation as a strict and immovable Collector, while I could do nothing to complain. I could explode his lamp and send glass shards into his eyes, but that wouldn’t make him process my vials any faster. The fastest way to get out of there was subservience.

“Forgive me, Reaper,” I said, bowing my head and dropping my shoulders. I let my voice sound timid and afraid. “I apologize for being late.”

The Collector blinked at me for a moment, as if surprised that I’d given in so quickly. But he looked young and power-hungry and not particularly perceptive, so I wasn’t too afraid that he’d see through my tactic. As expected, he sneered as if I truly had offended him, finally beginning to process the fifth vial.

“It’s a great inconvenience to both Collections and Processing,” he said, “though I wouldn’t expect a half-breed to understand the workings of the educated Reapers.”

The only believable response to his goading was humiliated silence, so I hung my head even further and tried to make myself as small and pathetic as possible. It wasn’t hard, because the memory of the night’s events was still wringing my heart out like a wet rag and my skin prickled with nerves so fiercely that I wanted to claw it all off and escape before Ivy could find me, yet here I was, brought to my knees before a glorified teller. I imagined being a High Reaper, being able to reach over and smash his face into his blotter and shatter his owlish glasses into his eyes for delaying and insulting me.

His lamp flickered more violently and he paused to smack it before finally finishing with my last vial. He placed all seven in a tray and pressed a button that started the conveyor belt, sending the souls down to Processing. The moment he put a black check next to my name in the ledger, I stood up straight and turned to leave.

His hand twisted into my sleeve, yanking me back.

I shot him a look that could have melted glass, but he only pulled me closer.

“There’s the matter of your sanction,” he said.

“My sanction,” I said, glancing around the office to see how many people would notice if I simply twisted the Collector’s neck. Too many.

“For your tardiness, of course,” he said, smirking sourly. From his position stretched across the desk, the lamplight caught in his glasses and turned them into two beaming white moons.

The standard punishment for failing to make curfew was a night on the pillory, hands and feet nailed to the wood and head locked in a hole that was just slightly too tight, letting you breathe but not speak. The other Reapers could pull your hair or pour mead over your head or call you a thousand names when you couldn’t talk back. But the worst part wasn’t the nails or the insults. It was the Reapers who did nothing but look at you and sneer like you were nothing but an ugly piece of wall art, like they were so perfect that they couldn’t fathom being in your place. And far worse than that was my own father and stepmother walking past me and pretending not to see.

“Come back at First Toll,” the Collector said. “We’ll find a nice place to hang you up by the Door.”

It took every ounce of restraint I had left to keep my expression calm. This was the part where I was supposed to say, Yes, Reaper, and bow, but he was lucky that I hadn’t smashed his glasses into his face with my fist.

As if he could smell my defiance, he pulled me closer. His glasses fell out of the lamplight, revealing a deep frown.

“Scrub that look from your face,” he said. “Remember that I’ll handle your collections in the future.”

The future, I thought.

Luckily, I didn’t have a future.

The light bulb flashed with a sudden surge of power, then burst. Glass shards rained down over the desk, forcing the man to release me as hot glass scored his hands. Some of his paperwork caught fire, and he frantically patted out the flames with hands full of shards.

“Yes, Reaper,” I said, bowing deeply so he wouldn’t see my smirk as he sputtered about “bloody light bulbs, I knew we should have kept the gas lamps.”

Then I turned and rushed off to the West Catacombs.

Excerpted from The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker, Copyright © 2021 by Kylie Lee Baker. Published by Inkyard Press. 

Interview with Issac Nasri

1) Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did you get into writing?

I’m a 27-year-old indie author that’s a native of Washington, DC and I have a penchant for cyberpunk. My passion for writing extended when I was young but I definitely made very good use of it as I was in college. In University of Maryland, I participated in writing clubs, where members shared insights and feedback on each other’s chapters or stories. Then my writing, though imaginative, was juvenile. But looking back and to now, I have to say my writing has significantly improved and age also plays a factor as we become sage over the years flying by, at times we recoil at what is done in the past. 

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2) What inspired you to write your book

The story itself is heavily based on the real-life events that went on, and the elements presented in Into the Violet Gardens shine light on the issues present in humanity today. Albeit cyberpunk, the novel is set two years later from now but ties in elements that are deemed ongoing issues in our society today. Plus humanity has played a great part in exacerbating these issues. 

3) What theme or message do you hope readers will take away from your book?

Readers should take heed that this novel covers themes that extend to the chimerical concept of peace, mendacity, and most importantly the dark reality of human nature, an element I do hope many readers look into. The latter is commonly demonstrated in this story where after the events involving the drug war, cyborgs and robots become targets for human prejudice concerning the turmoil plaguing Latin America in the aftermath of the war. As a result, this corruption enacted by humans takes a toll on the characters in my novel, giving fuel and pent-up anger within my main antagonist. The reality is that many people will take delight in taking part in an act that may seem trendy just to achieve gratification, even if the act is devious.

4) What drew you into this particular genre?

I’ve been a fan of science fiction due to how grounded the genre is to real-life and I believe that many authors can take liberty in applying its components to the modern world.

5) If you could sit down with any character in your book, what would you ask them and why?

This is a challenging one. A dangerous choice here, but I’d say that Eva Moreci, the main antagonist, would be a suitable candidate. She’s undergone numerous struggles in the story such as mortification and deception from humans, the people she once placed her trust in, and as a result, creating her into that monster that wants nothing but their decimation. Her motives are something readers can’t snub so freely. It would be interesting knowing how would she go about revolutionizing the world for all cyborgs and robots if she had succeeded in her plan. 

6) What social media site has been the most helpful in developing your readership?

The use of fiverr has been beneficial in helping me improve on my fiction. I’ve found a good amount of beta readers and editors that were willing to give their insights in components that needed fixing such as the Spanish dialect, which is very common in the story.

7) What advice would you give to aspiring or just starting authors out there?

I encourage readers to make use with editing rounds. One round of editing isn’t enough to make your writing transparent, and use editors that are convenient for your budget. Second is make use of beta readers. They have been of much help to me during my period of revising and their insights will help you figure plot holes and inconsistencies in stories.

8) What does the future hold in store for you? Any new books/projects on the horizon?

I definitely look forward to possible sequels to continue the storyline if I’m successful with the audience. As of far, the reaction has been going positive but I’m still pushing forward in reaching out to more people.

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About the Author

Isaac Nasri is a self-published author. He grew up in Washington DC and graduated in May of 2017 from the University of Maryland, College Park with a bachelor’s degree in Sociology. His stories focus on offering allusion to recent events happening in contemporary society and how they affect his characters.

Heart of the Scrapdog is his self-published work that was released in 2020.

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20806995.Isaac_Nasri

Cult by Warren Adler Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

After receiving a frantic call from the man she once loved claiming his current wife has been taken, a woman must put aside her misgivings and risk all to help the man she cared for deeply save his wife from the hands of a dangerous cult in author Warren Adler’s “Cult”. 

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The Synopsis

In the dead of night, Naomi Forman receives a phone call. Barney Harrigan, the man she once loved—now happily married with children—utters, “My wife Charlotte has been captured by the Glories.” What began as a rude interruption of her night becomes a horrifying interruption of her life, as she is unable to ignore Barney’s cry for help.

Drawn into the Glory Church doomsday cult by her estranged sister, Charlotte Harrigan succumbs to the will of the enigmatic Father Glory. Brainwashed beyond comprehension, she is now not herself, but only one of many who have been entrapped by the cult’s promise of rebirth into a new, idyllic life.

Against her better judgment, Naomi agrees to help Barney confront the Glories and save Charlotte. But naïve optimism quickly plummets to misery as their plans are systematically picked apart, dashed by members of the cult past and present, and even by the local Sheriff T. Clausen Moore, who is only as helpful as the Glories want him to be. His awareness of the Glory’s practices and their secluded compound—including the river, where there has been more than one “accidental” drowning—is the one obstacle that he too must overcome to restore order to his county. No one is safe.

Naomi’s will is tested and Barney becomes more and more desperate. The lengths he is willing to go to save his wife are as sinister as the Glories themselves.

From the Manson family to Scientology, cults have been fascinating, disturbing, and terrifying, from their induction methodologies to doomsday imperatives. The Glory Church of Warren Adler’s vision is no different. Just look to the headlines. Their time will come. 

The Review

When a story like this comes along, the thing that always separates the well-written from the more sensationalized storylines is how the story impacts the conversations they stir up. This novel really did an amazing job of creating buzz-filled conversations that pushed the limits of what we think about when it comes to religious freedom vs indoctrination. 

The character growth was so layered and complex that it really drew readers into the narrative. The novel introduced a story that felt very real, due in large part to the conflicted and flawed protagonists and antagonists of this narrative. The question of morality comes into play so strongly that readers will be forced to analyze how they would approach this emotional and mentally challenging subject. While saving our loved ones from indoctrination seems like a simple enough task, the means by which we do so and the consequences for those actions are what the characters here are forced to deal with.

The Verdict

A brilliant, complex, and engaging read, author Warren Adler’s “Cult” is a fantastic read. It allows readers to understand the challenging and emotional task of losing loved ones to fanaticism and cult activity, while also exploring the consequences of our choices. The concept of choice is a major theme in this novel, and the twists and turns both halfway through the novel and in the end will keep readers on the edge of their seats. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Acclaimed author, playwright, poet, and essayist Warren Adler is best known for The War of the Roses, his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce that was adapted into the iconic dark comedy that starred Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito. Following the success of his The War of the Roses, Adler went on to option and sell film rights to more than a dozen of his novels and short stories to Hollywood and major television networks. Random Hearts, The Sunset Gang, Private Lies, Funny Boys, Madeline’s Miracles, Trans-Siberian Express and his Fiona Fitzgerald mystery series are only a few titles that have forever left Adler’s mark on contemporary American authorship from page to stage to screen.

Adler illuminates the intricacies of the modern American family through wit and realism, a trademark that has earned him the moniker ‘master of dysfunction’. On the other hand, he navigates the turbulent waters of the American political and social scene with unsurpassed authenticity; his political thrillers such as The Henderson Equation, The Casanova Embrace, and American Quartet – a ‘New York Times notable crime book’ are born from his experiences as a former White House correspondent, and co-owner of Washington Dossier Magazine, chronicling the social history of the nation’s capital from 1975-1991. He was also a businessman and once campaign strategist to President Richard Nixon. With over 40 years of an insider’s view of the exclusive domain of the nation’s political elite, Adler writes with a unique insight and command rendering him an invaluable voice in the evolving American experience, and a trademark in American literature. 

https://www.warrenadler.com/popularbooksbywarrenadler/

Tiny Yellow Hat by J. Michael Chamberlain Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author J. Michael Chamberlain takes readers on a humorous journey through his life through anecdotes and true life experiences in his brilliant book, “Tiny Yellow Hat”. 

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The Synopsis

This wildly entertaining book is laced with wicked concepts, cheap shots and a few bright ideas; a feast of funny words and clever notions without once mentioning vampires or zombies. J. M. Chamberlain created the perfect blend of madcap rants and true life experiences guaranteed to put a never-ending smile on your face. Actually, a never-ending smile might be cause for alarm; if your smile lasts longer than four hours, please call a doctor. In a nutshell, this extraordinary slice of life is almost too good to read, but I suggest reading it anyway. I also suggest telling forty or fifty of your closest friends to read it, because www.peopleneedtolaugh.com 

The Review

This was a truly entertaining and engaging read. The author found the perfect balance between humor and personal reflection that this memoir needed. The quick-wit the author employs through his writing while regaling readers with relatable experiences like stage fright, brushes with death, and so much more made this a driven read. 

With such a storied and memorable career as this amazing author has had, it was so fascinating to see the author hone in on both the career aspect of his work as a stand-up comedian/actor and how it relates to the life lessons and memorable moments that stood out to him within his personal life. The author’s poetic delivery of witticisms and humor to explore these lessons will have readers laughing while also connecting to the author personally, something all great memoirs hope to do.

The Verdict

A remarkable, heartfelt, and funny memoir, author J. Michael Chamberlain’s “Tiny Yellow Hat” is a must-read book of 2021! The author’s creativity and life experiences will have readers enthralled, and the charming delivery of his life will have readers chuckling and smiling as they engage with the author’s writing on a very personal level. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Originally hailing from Brooklyn, New York, J. Michael Chamberlain, the doctor of comedy, began his career as the class clown with cohort Larry David, co-creator of Seinfeld and resident neurotic on Curb Your Enthusiasm. After a brief stint with a brokerage firm on Wall Street, the bestselling author signed up as a horse-and-carriage driver in Central Park. Comical tours through the park steered the way to stage doors, television studios, and major motion pictures. Soon, the gifted performer was working alongside Gene Wilder in The Woman in Red and Ed Harris in the timeless Irwin Winkler production, The Right Stuff. As a young actor and writer in Hollywood, he performed in over thirty motion pictures and countless television productions. When he isn’t penning bestsellers and appearing on The Late Show with David Letterman, he can be found playing the blues across America and enjoying the good life with his spouse and their rescued hounds, Charles Beresford Tipton and Gracie Poochinella Pants.

Hell Fighters: 21st Century Lovecraft by Bill Richardson Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

A chance at finding some semblance of security and newfound purpose in his life takes a dark turn when Dr. Max Heller must lead a ragtag group of people against malevolent entities in author Bill Richardson’s “Hell Fighters: 21st Century Lovecraft”. 

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The Synopsis

21st CENTURY LOVECRAFT

A terrifying evil wants to enter our world, and Dr. Max Heller and the Hell Fighters are the only ones who can stop it. Heller is a man of science but when he stumbles upon something that defies all logic, he must put aside his old ways of thinking and plunge into the unknown.

In the tradition of HP Lovecraft comes a tale of cosmic horror that will have you on the edge of your seat. There are things in the universe beyond our understanding, malevolent entities of immense power. Can Heller and a ragtag group of townspeople prevail against such beings? Find out in this gripping tale filled with horrors more frightening than any nightmare.

The Review

This book hits readers immediately with a punch! The author brilliantly alternates the pacing according to the atmosphere of each chapter, slowly introducing readers to the protagonist before unleashing all hell on him and forcing him into a shocking fight for his life. Honestly, some of the most compelling reads and even films/shows that have drawn me in over the years tend to be cosmic horror. From classic H.P. Lovecraft to Stephen King’s The Mist and even more modern tales like Stranger Things, the combination of exploring what lies just beyond our universe and the fight for hope and life in the face of overwhelming horror is so highly creative and vastly open for new stories, and this author has found the perfect take on this iconic storytelling device.

What really stood out to me was how much humanity the author was able to infuse into this cosmic horror adventure through such strong character development. A truly great horror story infuses the narrative with emotional storytelling through personal character growth, and the author did this brilliantly, especially with protagonist Max Heller and supporting characters like Lydia and the Hell Fighter Club. These personal and emotionally-driven character interactions not only opened up the mental and emotional journey they were on but also did a great job of bringing thought-provoking concepts and scientific theories such as other dimensions/universes into the conversation while delivering a chilling and haunting atmosphere. 

The Verdict

A chilling, horrifying, and entertaining Lovecraftian-style horror thriller, author Bill Richardson’s “Hell Fighters: 21st Century Lovecraft” is a must-read horror story this fall season, and one of 2021’s best horror reads overall. Brilliant character development, shocking twists, and turns as the mythos of this haunting world is developed, and an open-ended finale that both closes a chapter in the character’s lives and leaves open the possibilities for more, this is a novel readers do not want to miss. If you haven’t yet, be sure to grab your copy today!

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Most people want you to be just one thing, but unfortunately I’m not. I work in many genres, many media and many voices. I’m an award-winning filmmaker, an artist, playwright, poet and author. I do humor, horror, poetry, history and more. I create work that is serious, uplifting and explores important questions and I do things that are just pure entertainment. Some of the things I’ve done have been deep and thoughtful, and some just plain silly and fun. If there is a unifying thread, it is that I am a storyteller. And one of the main functions of stories is to aid us in making sense of the world. Stories help us deal with things we are frightened of – whether that’s a creature in the night or death. Stories also help us deal with the cares of life by understanding them or just being distracted from them. Our lives are varied and complex. At times we are happy or sad, challenged or victorious, high or low. So it is not surprising that the things we create should reflect that complexity and diversity. That’s how it is with me. Now if you want information on some of my specific accomplishments then just keep on a readin’.

As a filmmaker I’ve produced feature films, documentaries, commercials and TV series. I’ve appeared on numerous national TV shows including CBS This Morning, CBS Sunday Morning, American Pickers, Nat Geo’s Diggers, Discovery Networks’ Blood Feuds and America: Fact or Fiction and the Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum. My films have been used as teaching tools at such prestigious universities as UC Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon and Marquette, and are part of the U.S. Library of Congress holdings. I’ve been quoted in the New York Times, USA Today, Washington Post, London Times and hundreds of other newspapers. I’ve published fiction and non-fiction through Random House and other companies. I’ve been a featured speaker nationally and internationally. My work has been supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and I’ve done covers for books, magazines, movies and graphic novels. I’ve even appeared onscreen in four internationally distributed feature films.

https://bilrichardson.com/

Oh Daddy Chronicles 2: Return of Covfefe by Barry Robbins Review

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own. 

Author Barry Robbins returns with a follow-up to his acclaimed contemporary political satire collection featuring all-new skit-like segments focusing on Former President Trump now living life as “Citizen Trump” in the book “Oh Daddy Chronicles 2: Return of Covfefe”. 

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The Synopsis

Oh Daddy Chronicles 2: Return of Covfefe is a contemporary political satire. It continues the hilarious lampooning of the 45th President of the United States – a guy named Trump – that began with the original Chronicles. But the scene has shifted – from the White House to Mar-a-Lago and the object of ridicule now responds to the title Citizen Trump. Join the fun as “Return of Covfefe” brings you the first annual “I Love Trump Beauty Pageant,” the Cheneys vs.Trumps showdown, Biden’s summit with Putin, Allen Weisselberg’s flip, Bernie’s craving for gefilte fish, and lots more.

The Chronicles 2 consists of 47 largely independent skit-like episodes, each taking on a different target. It’s what you get when you take real or imagined events, toss in a healthy dose of comic imagination, and turn the blender speed to high.

The Review

A brilliant follow-up to a fantastic contemporary satire that reflects the central figures of our political scene today. The humor and wit with which the author delivers these scenes and the characterization of political figures like Trump, Vladimir Putin, Joe Biden, and more was not only hilarious but somehow captured the essence and tone of their behavior and actions over the last few years. 

One thing that stood out in this read, much like in the first book, was the author’s ability to balance the humorous character interactions with the contemporary real-world issues that we are still facing to this day. From the attack on the Capitol Building to COVID and the pandemic as a whole, the author finds a creative way to not only criticize the ridiculous nature of some of these individuals but to bring humor and a much-needed break from the reality of the life we are all living right now.

The Verdict

A masterful, well-written, and hilarious sequel to Oh Daddy Chronicles, author Barry Robbins’s “Oh Daddy Chronicles 2: Return of Covfefe is a must-read satire read. The natural way the author meshed the humor and contemporary scenarios together was incredible writing, and fans of political satire, in particular, will thoroughly enjoy as the strange, unusual, and shocking behavior of Trump takes on a whole new meaning in this evenly-paced read. If you haven’t yet, grab your copy today! 

Rating: 10/10

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About the Author

Barry Robbins is a retired CPA with a keen interest in things having nothing to do with accounting. He spent 26 years working for a large accounting firm. Then he quit. He moved to Helsinki, Finland with his Finnish wife and two beautiful daughters 20 years ago. He now spends much of his time living in Florida, struggling to adapt to life in what often seems like a foreign country. The years spent in Europe gave him new eyes through which to see the U.S. That, plus the time spent freelancing as a ghostwriter of book reports for lazy third graders, make him uniquely qualified to serve as Chronicler-in-Chief of the Oh Daddy Chronicles.